KBL is too hard on foreign players

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KBL is too hard on foreign players

In this season’s Korea Basketball League (KBL), Incheon ET Land Elephants forward Ricardo “Carlos” Powell has been in the spotlight for his passion and superb performance, leading the underdog Elephants run to the semi-finals.

Powell is currently the only foreign captain in the KBL. To Elephants fans, Powell, known as “Captain Po,” is one of the most beloved players on the team. The coach and players have also said in interviews that he is like a brother and a very supportive captain.

But Powell will be forced to leave the club after this season because of a KBL rule stating that foreigners can only play for the same club for three years in a row. The 31-year-old American, who has been with the Elephants since the 2012/13 season, criticized the regulation, but he has no choice.

Under the KBL rule, it is impossible for a foreign player to be what it considers a “franchise star,” a rule that disappointments fans, teams and players. A foreign player being forced to say goodbye to his team against his will is also bringing to question whether this is a form of discrimination.

In other Korean professional leagues, some players have been or are positioning themselves to become a franchise star at their club, leaving an enduring legacy with their fans and teams. In the K-League Classic, Brazilian Adilson dos Santos has spent 10 years with FC Seoul - eight as a player and two as an assistant coach - while in the Korea Baseball Organization, Doosan Bears’ pitcher Dustin Nippert will be starting his fifth season with the Seoul-based club.

The KBL says that the rule is to prevent a single team from dominating the league with powerful foreign players. But from foreign players’ point of view, it’s flawed because they have to give up their salary level and bonus clauses with their previous club and start all over again in negotiations.

Regardless of the rule, current foreign players had to leave the club anyway because the KBL said it will adopt a foreign player draft starting next season and teams will not be able to renew the contracts of their current foreign players.

In addition, for players like Powell (197 centimeters, or 6-foot-5) and Seoul SK Knights’ Aaron Haynes (201 centimeters), the new draft system’s height restrictions will be another disadvantage.

The KBL said that starting next season, half of the foreign players on the same team should be less than 193 centimeters tall. If a team decides to keep a player like Powell or Haynes they must also pick a small player which won’t help to back up the tall centers.

What seems to be problematic is that the KBL changes its rules on foreign players too often, which damages the league’s image. The league always says that the new rule is designed for the development of the KBL and to increase attendance at games. But what if the fans and players are opposed to it?

What basketball fans probably want from the league is the story that foreign players and local players make on the court as a team.

After all, foreign players should not be treated as “mercenaries,” but as KBL players who deserve recognition. Just tell me, why can’t a foreign player be a franchise star in the KBL?

By JOO KYUNG-DON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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